Occupy Planing was initiated by SCARP students interested in exploring, from a planning perspective, the issues brought forth by the global Occupy Movement. The newly formed group has focused its efforts on activating dialogue about 1) How planners interact with structural inequality and other substantial Occupy concerns, 2) What we as planners can learn from the Occupy Movement in terms of process, and 3) How the planning profession can engage with the Occupy Movement.
We were inspired to form Occupy Planning in November 2011 when Tony Dorcey hosted an Open Space Technology (OST) event for all students taking his classes that semester. Open Space is a facilitation style in which participants set the agenda, facilitate their own sessions, and can move freely through discussions. In Tony’s Open Space event, the Occupy Movement became a major point of discussion, with many SCARP students asking, “What does this mean for planning?” and, “Why aren’t we more involved with this?”
After that event, SCARP students began meeting to discuss Occupy’s impact on planning, eventually creating Occupy Planning. Wanting to know what other planning students and practising planners thought about these questions, we hosted Open Space discussions at the CAPS (Canadian Association of Planning Students) Conference and the SCARP Symposium in February 2012. Both sessions were well attended, garnering input from over 40 students and practitioners from a spectrum of schools and institutions.
Much like the experiences of Occupy assemblies elsewhere, our open dialogue sessions brought forth a wide breadth of issues, as well as proposed solutions. Participants then voted on the issues or solutions that resonated most with them. Questions that arose in both events included: How does inequality affect planning practice on a daily level? How does planning education address the reality of working within these inequalities? How can we keep the possible alive? How can planners be advocates as well as facilitators? Can the lessons from Occupy be better incorporated into university curricula? What is the role of technology in Occupy? And, if a global economic collapse happened this afternoon, where is the first place you would go, and why does this matter to planners?
Answers/Suggestions that emerged from the Open Spaces focused on the role of co-operatives, localization and bottom-up planning, as well as building social capital, equity of access to public space, and community connections. A more macro approach included the need for electoral reform and addressing the impact of money on politics. The ability of Occupy to be accessible to all members of the 99% was discussed, and in terms of planning education, the need for strong, engaged and practical internships was stressed.
To get involved or find out more about Occupy Planning and our next steps, please visit: http://www.occupyplanning.com.